After a long day on the water, inspecting your boat is probably the last thing on your mind. However, having a post-game inspection routine can be worth it in the long run. Here are a few things to check before you retire your boat for the night.
Check the engine temperature to make sure it’s still running within normal operating range. Before shutting off, check the telltale stream on your outboard to make sure it’s still flowing.
Trim your outboard’s or sterndrive’s lower unit out of the water, or as far up as you can, to inspect for any dings or damage. With the engine off, give the prop a quick spin with your hand so you can see or hear any stray fishing line wrapped around the prop shaft that’s pinging inside the barrel.
Give the battery a quick check with a voltmeter to see if it registers 12.6 volts. That will let you know whether your alternator’s doing its job. Check the connections too.
As far as the oil level, different manufacturers have different guidelines for checking when the engine is hot or cold, so do whatever it says in your owner’s manual. Checking the oil after running, though, is a great time to gauge engine health. Pull the dipstick and wipe the oil on a clean rag. If the oil looks milky, you could have water contamination. If it has a burned smell, your engine could be overheating. If you see any metal shavings, it could indicate larger internal engine problems.
Inspect for water or debris in your fuel filters to see if you have any contamination.
Check if any electrical connections worked loose during the run home.
Hoses and Belts
Did any hose clamps work loose during the run? Do the hoses or engine belts show any cracks or signs of aging, wear and tear? If you’ve just returned from heavy seas, it’s better to check sooner rather than later.
Poke your head into the bilge. Is there excessive water? Check the bilge pump to make sure it’s working, both from the helm and taking a look at the automatic float switch. Are all of your seacocks closed properly? Look for cracks and leaks that could sink your boat.
If you pull your boat from the water, check all the through-hull fittings for corrosion, cracks or clogs. If you leave your boat in the water, check all the scuppers and outboard drains for clogs that could keep water from draining.